An outraged juror has put the state Corrections Department on the defensive about its prison telephone policy after an inmate used the phones to choreograph the abuse of a teenage girl.
Joseph T. Soltis made dozens of graphic calls to arrange for pornography sessions involving the developmentally disabled girl and another woman, and gave orders while it was happening.
He was recently convicted of aiding and abetting the use of a minor in a sexual performance. He was already serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the 1999 strangulation of a Fridley woman.
During the pornography trial, jurors listened to recordings of three graphic 15-minute phone calls Soltis made from prison. Soltis was on the phone during at least one of the photo sessions, barking orders to the two women.
And it's not just an American phenomenon.
A Waikeria remand prison inmate has been convicted for tormenting his former partner from inside jail.
His threats were aimed at getting her to drop charges pending against him.
The woman was too terrified to tell police he was making abusive phone calls but the Department of Corrections caught him with its new phone monitoring technology.
The system, which was introduced in November, allows the department to record all calls made by prisoners from a prison payphone and randomly monitor them.
Corrections Minister Phil Goff says the public has a right to expect that prisoners will not be able to intimidate people from within prison.
I wouldn't call it a right, but I would say that it's reasonable for the public to expect that prisoners will not be able to reach out and touch complaining witnesses by telephone, nor that prisoners will be able to perpetrate horrific new crimes by phone. Nor for that matter that a prison sentence all too often amounts to a rape sentence. Our inmates are running the prisons.
Of course, in America we've decided that we want to keep lots of people in prison for non-violent offenses, principally drug offenses, but we've also decided that we're not about to pay the reasonable cost of keeping jails and prisons well-run. We'd rather have them run by the overworked at best, the indifferent on average, or thugs like Joe Arpaio or Gerald Hege at worst, who use brutality to keep order on the surface.
And we wonder why prisoners don't reform.